Government 179, SpaceShipTwo Zero

Last week, Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson predicted that SpaceShipTwo would begin commercial operations within 18 months. He gave a similar estimate during an appearance at the Oshkosh airshow 14 months ago concerning vehicle testing (above).

It was six years ago today that SpaceShipOne captured the $10 million Ansari X Prize. When Scaled Composites test pilot Brinnie Binnie landed the vehicle in Mojave, a new era of space tourism was about three years away. If Branson’s latest estimate holds, it will be about seven and a half years before tourists fly.

Since the X Prize winning flight, not a single pilot or passenger has flown into space aboard a private spacecraft. Meanwhile, 179 passengers have flown into space aboard government-built space shuttle, Soyuz and Shenzhou spacecraft.